10 Ways to promote a service business
If you’re just starting up a new business, or perhaps just purchased an existing one and want to find new customers, there are many ways you can do this online as well as offline. In this article we’re going to concentrate on promoting a service business via the internet. But most of the following methods are just as relevant to businesses which also sell products.
Google maps and websites
Getting your business online is an important step and should never be overlooked if you’re looking for ways to increase business. Because the Google search engine is by far the most used by internet users, it’s essential that your website can be found easily in their search results. If your website is not listed on the first or second page of Google for the most popular keyword search terms, it’s unlikely to be seen or visited by anyone.
Even more relevant to service businesses is Google Maps, which is a free service so there’s no excuse for not getting listed. When someone is searching for your type of business, along with the name of your town or city e.g. window cleaner Bradford, it will show up on Google’s local business listings along with a local map. Ideally, you need to be listed in the first ten if you want to get noticed. It’s also advisable to have a website link included in the description. Getting listed in Google’s business directory is becoming an essential requirement for any service business who wants to get found online. It’s worth noting also that other popular search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing offer a similar type of service.
The mere fact that more and more people are now using their mobile phones to connect to the internet to search for information and services online means that there’s a very good chance that you can generate more customers without spending a fortune on advertising. You can even get a business website designed and published now for very little cost. You can obtain a domain name for just a few pounds. You can also get a free or low cost website through various companies online. Our own web design department specialises in designing low cost websites for small service businesses. A website with five or six pages will usually be sufficient for most types of business.
Many firms are now using social media to get their businesses talked about online. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all useful places to get noticed, inform people about your business, and get people to visit your website. Facebook has an effective advertising platform that can be used to target new customers as well as Google AdWords. You Tube also provides a great free way to promote your business through video marketing. You can easily upload a promotional video for free, or advertise on their website.
A press release is one of the best ways to get a new business in front of the public. Send out press releases to local newspapers, magazines and trade journals whose readership are likely to be interested in your service. Make sure you mention your website so that people can go online and find out more about your business. You could also post a press release to one or more of the online press release services and blogs. To increase your chance of having the material published, send a photo to accompany your article. You can find out more about how to write a press release here
We have already mentioned how getting listed in Google Places is a great way to promote your service business online. But it doesn’t have to stop there. There are many free online business directories where you can get your business listed for free, or for a small advertising fee. You can usually add all your business details including name, business address, email address and contact numbers, and some directories also allow you to have a link to your website. This can be very useful if people want to learn more about your business and the services that you offer. It can also give your website a boost in the page rankings. For UK businesses some of the best online directoies to get listed in include FreeIndex, Bizwiki, Touch Local, and Yell.com. But there are many more which may be more relevant to the type of business you operate.
Another powerful way to advertise online is through Google AdWords. It can be very cost effective if you used correctly. It’s important to learn the basics of how the Google AdWords program works before you start to use it. If you don’t use it wisely you can flitter away your advertising budget in a blink of an eye. If you don’t feel comfortable or knowledgeable enough on how to use it, you could always employ a specialist firm to set up and control the advertisng for you. But be warned, there are a lot of companies who are only too happy to scam you out of your money, while overcharging for their services. Do a search on Google first to find a reputable firm with good reviews.
Although financially risky if not used correctly, Google AdWords is one of the quickest ways to start advertising and test results. It’s certainly worth giving it a try to see how much business it generates. You can set a limited budget over a specified period of time. The most important thing is to consider carefully how to word your ads and which keywords will be most effective to target the right customer.
Newspaper ads are still one of the most effective ways of finding new customers. Place an ad in your local newspaper and test the response. Don’t be too concerned if your first advert doesn’t bring in a lot of enquiries. It can sometimes take a few adverts before people become more familiar with your company name, and response rates can vary from ad to ad. So test and average out the enquiry rate over ten ads. This will give you a better idea of how effective they are.
Many local communities also provide free magazines which are often distributed over a wide area. The advertising rates in these magazines are generally much lower, so they’re very good for getting a wide exposure for little cost. Even cheaper are the notice boards that shops and supermarkets have on display to advertise local services. Large supermarkets especially have a wide reach. But also consider placing your business card or flyer in other establishments where these notice boards are available. e.g. train stations, newsagents, hairdressers, bus depots, tyre services, takeaways and restaurants. And especially any place that is related to the type of service you offer (see Recommendations: networking advice below)
One more tip: Make sure you put your company website address on all promotional material. If your website domain name is easy to remember, people will often take a look at your website to find out more about your company. Finally, let’s not forget the Yellow Pages printed directory. Although the internet has had a large impact on it’s publication, it’s still one of the first places people look when searching for a service they need quickly. They also have their website at Yell.com which should also be high on your list for consideration.
Telesales is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face appointment. This is usually scheduled during the call. Telesales can also include recorded sales pitches programmed to be played over the phone via automatic dialing. Telesales (sometimes referred to as ‘inside sales’) has come under fire in recent years, often being viewed as an annoyance by those receiving these type of calls. However, they are still surprisingly effective. Telesales usually fall into one of the following categories –
a) Lead Generation (to gather information)
b) Sales (using persuasion to sell a product or service)
c) Outbound (proactive marketing in which prospective and pre-existing customers are contacted directly)
d) Inbound (where reception of incoming orders and requests for information are dealt with)
Demand is generally created by advertising, publicity, or the efforts of outside salespeople. There are a number of firms who can provide this type of service for you. You can find them by simply doing a search on Google.
Radio & TV advertising
Although radio and especially TV advertising is very expensive, they can also be extremely effective. If you’re planning to expand your business into a larger company, then the media is the way to go. Obviously, a clear business plan and carefully controlled budget is essential to avoid spiraling costs. A good advertising agency can help advise you on on how to proceed, and the costs involved. You can find out more about how radio advertising can help your business on the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) website. For TV advertising we recommended that you seek advice from an advertising or PR agency that deals in this specialised area.
One of the most effective ways to get recommendations is to network with other types of business related to your line of work. For example, if you’re a tiler you could have some arrangement whereby you could recommend a tile supplier, in return, they could recommend your service to their customers. A bathroom or kitchen installation firm might also recommend your services. Plumbers and electricians and other related tradesmen may also n willing to network with you. A carpet company might recommend a carpet fitter. A tyre fitting service or M.o.t. station might recommend a mechanic. A graphic designer may recommend a printing firm. I’m sure you get the picture.
They say that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. And it’s true. Satisfied customers will only be too happy to refer their friends and aquaintances if you provide them with an exceptional service. Make sure you give each satisfied customer a few business cards to hand out. A small incentive of some kind can sometimes spur the customer to be a salesperson on your behalf. Also, try to collect testimonials whenever you can and use them in your advertising.
Building a mailing list
A mailing list is generally more effective for businesses selling goods, but can still be useful for promoting a service. Some services are used regularly, so an email to your customer mailing list, and especially potential customers who sign up online, can be quite effective in bringing in new business. It can be used as an occasional reminder of your service, or as a newsletter to inform customers of any relevant news, such as a new line of service that you start to offer. Building a mailing list can be done easily through your website. It’s simply a matter of setting up an online form and asking people to sign up for further information about the services you offer.
Building your brand
Building a strong business image is the most effective way to help people remember your service. Think of Dyno-rod, the AA, KwikFit, etc. What do they all have in common? A business brand that’s easy to remember and well known by everyone. Take a look at how other companies promote their brand. What methods do they use to get their customer’s attention. What is memorable about their name and the way they project the image of their business? Looking at other brands will help you get some ideas for your own. Write down a few notes and observations. What business colours do they use? What type of logo and typeface is used to promote their image?
If you’re artistic, you might want to scribble down a few designs for a logo. But don’t copy the look or style of another company’s brand, make sure yours is unique and relevant to your business. Getting your business noticed means having your company graphics and contact details everywhere you look. On your company vehicles, on your work clothing, on your business cards, leaflets, letterheads, invoices, emails, and of course, on your website. Plus everywhere you advertise your business.
Spread the word
Get plenty of business cards printed and hand them out wherever you go. Ask other business aqaintances to hand them out as well. You can get them printed at your local printers. The more you get the cheaper the individual cost. If you’re on a tight budget to start with, consider using a company such as Vistaprint who provide business cards at introductory lower prices than many other printers through their online ordering service.
Talk to as many people as you can about the new service or products you’re offering. Spread the word and make people aware of what your new business can offer that makes it different from the rest.